After the Israelites left Egypt, they were sentenced to wander the desert for 40 years. This was a verdict handed to them for their disobedience. Still, one could consider it a pretty hefty fine, especially after they’d just been freed from secular Egypt. Yet, it is possible that there was a subversive design behind their punishment. If we delve into the Tanakh and study the six centuries before the Exodus, we might discover the benefits that paralleled Israel’s penalty.
As an additional benefit through this study, we will also answer why many of us wandered a while before we entered a destination befitting God’s Word. If we really examine it, we might see that it’s not the destination but the journey that prepares us for service. We should note that over half of the Patriarchs were placed on a life altering journey after they were chosen but before they received God’s blessings. These pathways possessed obstacles that challenged and humbled them, preparing them for the promised blessings. Let’s tear apart these journeys in chronological to better understand their benefits.
In Genesis 12:1-3 Abram (Abraham) is chosen by God to receive His covenant. At this point, Abram was an accomplished man. At 75, he had wealth, servants and cattle. Nonetheless, God put him on a 24-year journey filled with challenges that would stretch this senior citizen. During his trek, Abram found himself confronted by several challenges, such as parleying with a King over his wife’s safety and defeating foreign enemies to save his nephew. Some say that Abram was considered righteous and therefore God chose him. Yet, Abraham wasn’t labeled righteous until halfway through his journey (Genesis 15:6). At the journey’s end, in chapter 17, Abram becomes Abraham and the covenant was sealed. This should have been enough but even after God had vetted and grown Abraham, he would continue to be tested, i.e. the sacrifice of Isaac.
Then we have Jacob, a man whose start is quite different than his Grandfather’s. Whereas Abraham comes onto the scene an accomplished gentleman, Jacob gains his advantage by swindling his brother’s birthright. Nonetheless, while on the lamb from an understandably irate brother, Jacob becomes blessed from God (Genesis 28:13-15). Unlike the obedient Abraham, Jacob appears to establish conditions by saying;
“If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; And if I return in peace to my father’s house, and the Lord will be my God”
Wow, what arrogance, it is almost surprising that God wanted a relationship with this immature lad. Yet, many of us, like Jacob, on our faith walk started off with this Bob Barker “let’s make a deal” attitude with God. I am glad he did not give up on us, and he didn’t give up on Jacob. So, Jacob starts his journey. Jacob, the swindler, would become swindled time and time again by the great deceiver, Laban. Jacob would also find himself at hard labor earning everything he had. AThis was a humbling existence for one who had such a charmed life. Finally, he would go before the brother he betrayed and make amends. So, there we have it, Jacob like Abraham gets a name change and the blessing 23 years later. Yet, this great crescendo was not enough, Jacob would have plenty of heartaches and challenges ahead of him.
Then we have Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. Unlike his Dad, he didn’t start off life deceitful, but he did have an arrogant innocence that got him into a lot of trouble. Actually, his brothers wanted to murder him but settled for selling him into slavery. From here, he was wrongly accused of rape and did a stretch in prison. Finally, after 23 years and interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams correctly, he was promoted to the second in charge of Egypt. Like his Dad, he made restitution with his brother/s (Genesis 45). Conversely, Joseph unlike his Father (Jacob)and Great Grandfather (Abraham), did not get a name change or did he get a blessing from God directly, but he did receive God’s blessing indirectly. In Genesis 45:7 he tells his brother the adventure he was on was God’s design for the betterment of the family. This gives great testimony to Joseph, that in spite of is hardships, he saw the value of the lessons taught.
Israel / Us
Now we have the Israelites. As Numbers 14:33-35, 32:13 tells us they were sentenced to 40 years in the desert waiting for the disobedient generation to dissipate, all but two (Caleb and Joshua). If we see this figuratively, maybe we can say a portion of us need to die before moving into our promise. Another point of order is that even after Abraham, Israel, Joseph, Caleb and Joshua made it to their destination there was still more demanded of them. Many of us wandered through the desert of pagan religions changing denominations the same way these great men segued from one trial to another. Likewise, some of us are frustrated with our past trial and tribulations from Christianity. Yet, maybe we had to go on our journeys before we could be considered worthy of the blessings. Remember, like the Patriarchs and the Israelites, the pursuit is always God. The important thing to consider now is to be thankful for what the journey taught us, and to be prepared for the rest of it. .